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Karen Reed was a spirited caregiver

Family and friends remember nurse as a 'dynamo'

Family and friends remember nurse as a 'dynamo'

April 26, 2008|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." Each story in this continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Karen Lee Reed, who died April 11 at the age of 50. Her obituary appeared in the April 15 edition of The Herald-Mail.

By all accounts, Karen Reed was a good Samaritan with a big heart.

"If it was in need, my sister would take it in and feed it," said Reed's sister, Cyndy Artz of Boonsboro. "Anything that was pathetic looking, she would take care of it."

Reed lived near the Appalachian Trail with her husband, Terry. She was known for taking in stray animals, and for providing sandwiches and drinks for haggard passers-by. On occasion, her capacity for giving flummoxed those around her.

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"I remember some years ago, two women were killed on the Appalachian Trail," Artz said. "We were watching about it on TV, and when they showed the killer, Karen said, 'Oh my gosh, I think I gave that guy a peanut butter sandwich.'"

Reed's caregiving usually was less perilous, but no less stirring.

Reed served in the nursing field most of her adult life, beginning as a certified nursing assistant and eventually earning a master of science degree as a gerontological nurse practitioner. She was employed early on at a couple of area nursing homes, and ultimately became a clinical educator and staff registered nurse on Geriatric Medical Surgical Unit 3E at Washington County Hospital.

Artz said Reed had a passion for working with older patients, particularly those with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Co-workers commended Reed's ability to share her passion for caregiving through training and seminars as a clinical educator.

"She was able to take it to all levels and present it so the nurses, the nursing assistants and the unit secretaries could all comprehend it," Unit 3E secretary Barbara Lloyd said. "It was not 'up here' on this level. She could relate to everyone."

Staff nurse Linda Stutzman said Reed related to patients in a similar way.

"It didn't matter what walk of life, what education or financial level anyone had," Stutzman said. "She could get on the level of each of her patients."

Staff nurse Denise Skidmore said Reed worked as a night shift nurse, but regularly would fill in whenever she was needed. Sometimes, Reed would go to work a shift as an educator and end up staying to work a nursing shift on the floor.

"She didn't just take care of her patients' medical needs," Skidmore said. "She would come up to the desk and know all kinds of things about them because she cared to know where they worked, what their family was like ..."

Reed's caring for people projected beyond her nursing role. Fond of cooking and baking, she brightened staff meetings with elaborate spreads of bagels, homemade coffeecakes, fruit, juice and coffee.

Reed was unable to have children of her own, but she enjoyed those of close friends and family members and took them under her wing.

Reed's niece, Erin Artz, 14, of Boonsboro, said Reed brought an enthusiasm to family gatherings. Instead of a simple meal, Reed would prepare feasts with multiple appetizers, main courses and desserts.

"Everything with Karen was a big production," Cyndy Artz said. "Everything was over scale and bigger than life."

Kaycie Cooper, another of Reed's co-workers, remembered one time asking Reed if she had a piece of gum.

"She opened up her bag to 15 packs of gum. She said, 'Do you want spearmint, cinnamon, citrus, sugar free, bubble gum ...?'" Cooper said. "Anything you can imagine, she probably had it in there."

Reed had a second job as a travel counselor for the state of Maryland at the Interstate 70 Welcome Center. She referred to nursing and educating as her passions, and travel and tourism as her "fun job," friends said. And fittingly, Reed used her "fun job" to benefit those around her, planning honeymoons for friends and arranging vacations for her extended family.

Cyndy and Erin Artz have boxes full of vacation photographs documenting excursions planned by Reed. The mother and daughter laughed as they recalled extreme amusement rides and exotic foods such as crocodile and flaming poo poo platters that Reed persuaded them to try.

"She was adventurous," Cyndy Artz said. "She would do anything new, eat anything new. Everything was always fun with Karen. She would go out in the ocean and ride the waves."

Reed was diagnosed with diabetes in her late teens. During a routine visit to a cardiologist last February, she mentioned feeling as if her "heart fell forward when she stooped over," friends said. She learned through testing that she had sustained a major heart attack without knowing during the previous month or so.

A catheterization revealed several blockages and she had surgery in late March. Reed progressed to a step-down unit, but died April 11 of cardiac arrest at Winchester (Va.) Medical Center.

"I know there were times that she didn't feel good, and she got sick easily. She would wear herself out," Cyndy Artz said. "But when she felt good, she was a dynamo. She was like go, go, go!"

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